laundry room etiquette
May 3, 2010 4:07 PM   Subscribe

When using a shared laundry room if someone puts a basket with clothes and whatnot in front of the washer you are using do you have to let them have the next wash even if you are not finished with all of your laundry? What if your other loads are in the apartment and therefore not visible to the person? Is it even polite to set your basket down like that? What if there are very few washers? Or only one? I googled all around to try and find a satisfactory answer to this but I am not finding it, so I am asking for a collection of opinions!
posted by missmle to Human Relations (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My rule of thumb is - if your shit's there but you aren't and the timer's up, too bad. I'm doing my stuff. That goes for washers, driers, and laboratory autoclaves.
posted by kthxbi at 4:11 PM on May 3, 2010 [26 favorites]

Leaving your laundry in front of the machine is a good way to get your laundry stolen.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:12 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Reason being, chances are the person came under the pretenses of doing laundry, saw the washer was full, said to themselves "there's no point in me carrying this back to my apt again", left it there, and who knows when they're going to be back. I used to be the nice girl but too many times that had me waiting for too long for the person to come back and actually throw their load in.
posted by kthxbi at 4:12 PM on May 3, 2010

I would interpret it as just queing up. "When you're done, I'd like to be next." If you are nowhere to be found, I would say you are done.
posted by sageleaf at 4:12 PM on May 3, 2010

Our house rule is, if it's wet clothes in front of the drier, they go in on normal. Dirty clothes in front of washer - if you're not there to put them in, you're out of luck (too many variables in how they could be washed to leave it for someone else to choose - cold, hot, warm, gentle or not, bleach or not).
posted by zippy at 4:13 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

let me clarify, the basket would be down before the time was up, and the laundry would be tended to promptly (no sitting around in the washer or dryer after time).
posted by missmle at 4:13 PM on May 3, 2010

If your laundry's not there waiting, too, then your laundry is not next in line. It's the laundry that holds the place in line, not the person doing the laundry. Bring at all at the same time.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:14 PM on May 3, 2010 [6 favorites]

Put all the laundry you intend to do on top of the machine and know how long the cycle is so when your first load is done, you can immediately change out loads. If someone sneaks in, it's your own fault. You could maybe argue for a 5 minute grace period between the time the machine stops and before the next person starts a new load, but it's not required.

Alternatively, hang out in the laundry room with a book while you do your laundry.
posted by electroboy at 4:15 PM on May 3, 2010

If you are going to be spending hours doing your laundry, and someone else is waiting, it would be very considerate for you to let them do their one load before you do the next 5 of yours, or at least alternate with them. I think that is more important than trying to figure out who is "in the right" here - or in a lot of other situations, for that matter.

If they're not there when you finish your load, I think it's fine to start the next one.

It might be a good idea for you guys to draw up some agreements for the laundry room so this sort of situation is more clear in the future.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:18 PM on May 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

I would personally let the other person use the machine, if they'd risked leaving their clothes there to hold a spot (and they were down fairly promptly to put them in when your load was done). Even if you have other clothes back in the apartment, it's not really fair to hold onto the machine for loads and loads and loads when you can see other people want to use it, especially if it's on a popular laundry day. If clothes-thievery isn't a big problem in your building, you could then put your next load in front of it while theirs is washing and get it back again reasonably quickly.
posted by wending my way at 4:19 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

kthxbi has it. After a few go's at playing nice, you'll be frustrated when the pile is still there, un-attended, two hours later.
posted by mmdei at 4:22 PM on May 3, 2010

yeah, for happy neighbor stuff i'd take a break on my next load to let them do one. put your next basket in front of the washer so the other person doesn't do two in a row.
posted by nadawi at 4:22 PM on May 3, 2010

If the other person is not present, do what is most expedient for yourself. If the person is present, time for a little negotiation. In my experience, if you claim to have more loads to do, they will tend believe you and let you finish first. The implicit principle is that you are seen as the temporary "owner" of the machine, and other (reasonable) people will wait for you to relinquish your ownership. Apparently this applies in other settings too, such as sharing equipment at the gym.

(But that's just the place where I live.)

Is it even polite to set your basket down like that?
Yes, it's just a signal to show everyone else that he/she is next in line after you. Very reasonable; it is consistent with "no cutting" etiquette.
posted by polymodus at 4:25 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

A load doesn't take all that long - say 45 minutes - and I doubt anyone is checking for a free washer more than every 15 minutes. If you are there and have a second load to put in and the other person isn't around, I think it's most logical for you to put your load in right then. Let's say they check back in 15 minutes...they only have to wait another half hour, which isn't an insane amount of time. But if you don't put your laundry in, and they come back and put theirs in in 15 minutes, that's an hour that you're waiting.

All bets are off if you're doing load after load, though - I can see how it would be inconsiderate to monopolize the washer/dryer all day.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:26 PM on May 3, 2010

I hate this. I hate this! I hate THIS!!

It is the same as the person who throws a book on the last table at the coffee shop before getting in line (and I've been there in line waiting...).

I'm a human, damn it. That's an object. No dibs!
posted by Some1 at 4:35 PM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

So a wash takes like 20 minutes - half an hour, and a dry takes an hour (roughly). If they haven't put their load in the washer by the time your clothes are half-dry (i.e. so your next wash would end about the same time your previous load is dry) then I would go ahead and put your next load in.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:46 PM on May 3, 2010

I'd let the clothes hold a spot for 5-10 minutes, then, it's yours if they've not started a load, but it varies from laundry room to laundry room. Some are like Lord of the Flies.
posted by JMOZ at 4:48 PM on May 3, 2010

My washer and dryer are in a shared basement, so while I could leave loads up in my room and bring them down one by one, I prefer to bring the whole shebang (usually two loads, sometimes three) down at once to show, "This is how much laundry I am doing at this time."

I recognize the situation might be different in an apartment-shared laundry room, but unless the person is there waiting or has indicated an interest to jump in front of me, I do my stuff first.

If the situation is reversed and I come downstairs to see someone's laundry waiting in a bag in front of the empty washer, I heave a sigh and try again in 15-20 minutes. If I come down and see they still haven't started, I do one of two things.

1. Am I in a good mood? I start their laundry. (Again, all of these people live in my house, I might think differently if it was a stranger's laundry)
2. Am I in a bad mood? I cut in front of them because they are not present.
posted by rachaelfaith at 4:55 PM on May 3, 2010

If the washer's done and I'm there and the other person isn't, they're out of luck.

I'm not waiting for god knows how long for them to remember they put their basket down.

Great if you're one of the prompt ones, but most people aren't (and in the meantime, everyone ELSE jumps in line.) If you are seriously prompt and seriously in need of clean clothes, be there before the washer ends. If the person whose stuff is in the washer is also there when the load ends, you will have to beg and plead hardship to be next, even if their next load was up in their apartment when you put your basket down.

Possession is 9/10th of laundry room law.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:02 PM on May 3, 2010

Mo Nickels answer is my answer. To hold the machine you need all your clothes there waiting, otherwise the person who put down the basket doesn't have any idea they're waiting for more than one load to be done.
posted by MsMolly at 5:29 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

It is the same as the person who throws a book on the last table at the coffee shop before getting in line (and I've been there in line waiting...).

Put your book on the table first, then. It seems like you know how it works. The idea there is that people don't want a coffee if they can't have a table, so first you get a table, then you get a coffee.
posted by mendel at 5:33 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ah, laundry politics. To me, if there are a limited number of washers then the polite thing to do is take turns. If you know there's no one waiting in line, go to town and do five loads! But by this person putting their basket in front, yes, I'm afraid that gives them dibs. Put your next load of laundry behind his to reserve the next spot.

That said, I give a 10 minute grace period to anyone who has either left their clothes in the machine, or has marked their place in line. If they don't show within that time frame, then I just go ahead and put my stuff in! I think this is totally reasonable without being a laundry etiquette nazi or risking making enemies of your neighbours.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 5:50 PM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you tend to do lots of laundry and tie up a machine, this will happen. Be prepared. Post a note on the machine: "Load 1 of 3"
posted by theora55 at 6:13 PM on May 3, 2010

Social norms vary from place to place -- there's no universal "rule" for laundry rooms.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:40 PM on May 3, 2010

I once heard someone say that they gave 15 minutes, to accommodate any potential TV commercial break schedule. After 15, you were bumped in line.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:05 PM on May 3, 2010

There is no rule.

There is a solution, however:

"Oh - are these your clothes? You want the washer next, right? Sounds good. I have one more load after this one - is that cool?"


"Say, can I grab that washer after you're done with that load?"

The best way to find out what people expect is always to ask.
posted by koeselitz at 7:10 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I simply take it as an acknowledgement that someone else wants to do laundry now. If I really don't need to do the next load right now, then maybe I'll just do the one and let them use it. If I'm in a hurry or if this is really when laundry best fits into my schedule, then I will keep using the machine. I am, however, very strict about picking my clothes up on time, and not letting them just sit in the washer and dryer.

When I leave clothes in the laundry room, I'm honestly not trying to hold my place in line. I come into the laundry room hoping it's free, realize it's not, and then leave my clothes there so I don't have to keep hauling them back and forth every time I'm hoping the washer's finally free. Sometimes this means I leave it there for hours. I really hope this doesn't deter anyone from using the washer. It doesn't seem to from what I've observed (other people using the wash when my stuff's propped by the side).

If I really, really needed the machine, I'd leave a note.
posted by quirks at 7:17 PM on May 3, 2010

Where I live, it's brutally competitive, so if I do have an urgent load and want to "play through," I will stand there and watch the last few minutes tick down, then start mine. The laundry's presence, combined with their absence, in my house would mean that they didn't want to carry this laundry back upstairs, and that maybe I should do one more load but not three more.
posted by salvia at 7:39 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I treat a laundry basket in front of the machine as a warning to future washers that there's a line. NOT as a deadline on my own, in progress, activities. There's some courtesy involved, but the folks who have the machine get final say in when they stop. PROVIDED THERE'S NO DOWN-TIME. A stopped machine is an unattended machine & I see no reason for anyone not to politely evict the unattended clothes. If there's no clean place to evict them to, that's a problem. Personally, I might sacrifice a garbage bag to the cause.

So: If the person's not there and waiting when my first load is done, I'm going to throw in my second load & to Hell with them. People can leave their laundry with the best of intentions & then not show up again for *hours*; it's just not my problem.

If the person isn't there but walks in halfway through while I'm switching my loads, I'll probably say something like, "I'm sorry, I had several loads. Are you in a hurry?" And then we can have a conversation about who goes next.

If the person is there, and loading up, when I come back for mine, I'll be gracious about losing my spot & plonk down my own basket.

What I really prefer, though, is when I run into the person who owns the other basket before the switchover time & can say, at a less loaded moment, "hey, I know you only see the one load spinning, but I've got another 2 on their way down...FYI it's going to be a while."
posted by Ys at 8:54 PM on May 3, 2010

>>It is the same as the person who throws a book on the last table at the coffee shop before getting in line (and I've been there in line waiting...). me, quoted

>Put your book on the table first, then. It seems like you know how it works. The idea there is that people don't want a coffee if they can't have a table, so first you get a table, then you get a coffee.

But -- but, I have a newspaper with a half done crossword, instead of a book. People don't respect newspaper dibses.

Also, then I'd be being a rude asshole to all the people in line in front of me. They're people, not objects too.
posted by Some1 at 10:06 PM on May 3, 2010

This is a tricky area to navigate. Some places are Lord of the Flies, as JMOZ says. I once was a few minutes late for my dryer load and somebody dumped it all in one of the discharge sinks, so they got soaked with effluent from someone else's load. Clean, dry clothes, mind you.

There was a small table and there were sinks that did not hook up to the washers, so that wasn't the only option. Hell, the floor would have been acceptable punishment.
posted by dhartung at 10:49 PM on May 3, 2010

I guess it depends on if you're putting your basket there thinking, "this means I get to do the next load of laundry", or if it means "I get the washer next." I fall into the second group, though I think it's only fair for me to be there as soon as the cycle's done so I can switch out loads without a delay. If it's done and they see it, to me, they're perfectly justified to take mine out and put them on the dryer or in my basket and start theirs, and I just get back in line.
posted by lemniskate at 5:34 AM on May 4, 2010

If there's a limited number of shared machines, it's unreasonable to think you can monopolize them for a number of hours at a time. Allowing people to queue is the only reasonable solution which maximizes the communal benefit.

It's probably in your best interest, I've found, in a shared situation to attempt to do your laundry when you have one load ready to go. It's too much pressure on a shared situation to set aside Sunday morning to do your five loads of laundry because you're blocking the machine from being allowed reasonable access to the machine at a given time.
posted by Hiker at 5:43 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, then I'd be being a rude asshole to all the people in line in front of me. They're people, not objects too.

No, you're teaching them new skills! If everyone does the table-then-coffee thing, all the table-wanters get tables until they're all full, no surprises.

You're right that newspapers don't cut it, though, they say "left behind". Have you considered carrying sunglasses or a small plastic "Reserved" sign?
posted by mendel at 9:03 PM on May 4, 2010

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